Tagged in: joe girardi

Miller hits 3 HRs, Phillies rout reeling Cubs 8-0

Brad Miller hit three home runs in a match for the first time in his career, and the Philadelphia Phillies routed the sinking Chicago Cubs 8-0 on Thursday night.

Miller hit a solo drive in the third inning and added two-run homers in the fifth and seventh innings.

With a chance at joining the other 18 players who have hit a record four home runs in a game, Miller popped up in the ninth. He grounded out in his first at-bat.

Manager Joe Girardi wanted to get the left-handed batting Miller, a utility man and pinch-hitting specialist, in the lineup versus Cubs right-handed starter Adbert Alzolay. Miller started at first base while Rhys Hoskins got the night off.

“We just liked the matchup and he came up really big for us,” Girardi said. Miller hadn’t homered since June 6 and began the day with six home runs this season. The 31-year-old infielder broke out with his 14th career multi-homer game and his parents in the stands at Wrigley Field — he now has 104 homers in nine big league seasons.

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“It was really special,” Miller said. “I felt like I was dreaming.”

Miller has been working with the Phillies hitting coaches after a tough June when he had just two hits and walked nine times in 43 plate appearances over 20 games.

“To turn the page and being able to contribute was really nice,” Miller said. “I need to take that mindset in there to do damage and drive the ball.”

And drive the ball Miller did.

“None were cheap shots,” Phillies starter Zach Eflin said. “He crushed all of them.”

Eflin (4-6) settled into pitch six solid innings as the Phillies took three of four games at Wrigley. Didi Gregorius added a two-run shot and All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto scored on a double steal.

The Cubs lost for the 12th time in 13 and dropped to 43-45 as they struggled at the plate without injured stars Kris Bryant and Javier Báez.

It was 24th time a Phillies batter hit three homers in a contest and the first since Jayson Werth tagged Toronto for three in May 2008.

Miller homered early to left-center off Alzolay (4-9), who lost his fifth consecutive start.

Cubs manager David Ross said Alzolay’s lack of execution, not lack of stuff did in the righty — especially against Miller.

“A little bit of command issues, especially fastball command from my view,” Ross said.

Miller turned on Alzolay’s 0-2 pitch the next time up for a drive deep down right field line that made it 4-0. Miller launched the first pitch he saw from reliever Cory Abbott in the seventh off Wrigley’s right-field message board.

Eflin scattered five hits while striking out five and walking one.

Chicago couldn’t muster much against Eflin after ending an 11-game losing streak, its longest since 2012, on Wednesday with an 8-3 win. The Cubs were in a first-place tie in the NL Central on June 24 when starter Zach Davies front-ended a combined no-hitter over the Dodgers.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the second when Realmuto plowed home on a double steal.

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Héctor Neris gets the Phillies’ closer role to start the season, Joe Girardi says

The Phillies’ rebuilt bullpen incorporates four new relievers who have experience closing games, but the ninth-inning duties will remain with the same closer from last season’s historically poor unit.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that Héctor Neris, the team’s primary closer for the last three seasons, will again handle the ninth. Archie Bradley and José Alvarado will be used in setup roles while other newcomers Sam Coonrod and Brandon Kintzler will be utilized when needed.

Neris had a 4.57 ERA in 24 appearances last campaign, converting five of his eight save chances. His production dipped last summer, but Neris’ strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings), contact rate (61.4%), swing rate (66.2%), and hard-hit rate (39.7%) were similar to his marks in 2019 when he finished with a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves.

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There is an argument that Neris’ biggest detriment last season was bad luck as his batting average on balls in play was .381, the 14th highest among all relievers and 59% higher than it was in 2019.

More balls seemed to fall in last season against Neris, whose FIP — a stat that is similar to ERA but removes the results on balls hit into play — was the 22nd-best among relievers and two runs lower than his ERA.

The Phillies will give Neris the opportunity to show that he’s more the pitcher he was in 2019 than the one who never seemed to find his footing in last year’s truncated season. But if Neris stumbles, there are options waiting to take the ninth inning.

“Héctor’s been a successful closer, Archie’s been a successful closer. I know Alvarado can close and Kintzler’s been a successful closer,” Girardi said.

“I know they can all do it. I just decided to go with Héctor. He’s done it, he’s done it in this town, and I like the way he’s throwing the baseball.”

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